Travel Story A top South West spot for dogs ... and their owners

Photo of Shirley Stephenson

A pet-friendly holiday in Western Australia's South West need not be a hassle. In fact, it can be surprisingly good for your health...

It’s true! Travelling to our magical South West is good for your health.

In a highly scientific experiment involving a trip to Dunsborough and my Christmas present — a fitness-monitoring watch — I documented my heart rate as it gradually descended the nearer we got to holiday paradise.

The relaxation was enhanced by the much-improved roads and the seemingly much-improved road manners of most drivers, so much so that we arrived in Dunsborough a mere three hours after leaving Joondalup, minus stops.

As usual we stayed at Dunsborough Railway Carriages just five minutes from the buzzing hub that Dunsborough (I don’t think they shorten it to “Dunny” somehow) has become. The converted, self-contained rail carriages sit in peaceful farmland and the big draw for us is that you can take your dogs and they get to stay indoors. The paddock across the road hops with kangaroos at dawn and dusk, splendid fairy wrens and kookaburras abound, and you might see a pesky rabbit — they burrow under the fences.

Dunsborough’s beachfront has been transformed since we first visited 20 years ago, with walking and cycle paths, gym equipment, majestic shade trees and even a coffee truck. And the bay is still its gentle summer self, with happy holidaymakers paddling knee deep and water sporters cavorting.

Even mundane shopping has a good vibe. Coles’ aisles are filled with the well-heeled, surfies, hipsters, genuine hippies and arty types all adding to the laid-back feel.

Lunch with friends at Wise Winery on Eagle Bay Road was a lovely experience. Topnotch food, great service from Caspian, lovely Wise wine and (you guessed it) you can take your pooches if you dine on the beautifully refurbished terrace. The view across bush to the sea will drop your blood pressure by a few more notches too.

Also highly recommended for its feel-good factor, lovely food and eclectic beer selection is the more casual Occy’s in the centre of Dunsborough (opposite the Dunsborough Tavern which, strangely for down south, doesn’t allow dogs in its beer garden). Our huge Quindalup pizza, $23 — prawn, prosciutto, confit tomato, basil, and stringy mozzarella — easily fed two and the big butterflied garlic prawns were perfectly cooked. Ideal outdoor eating for watching the passing parade.

We drove the 40 minutes to Margs by the sun-dappled back roads early the next morning, along Commonage Road. The barker of our two dogs always gets excited as we pass the realistic bovine statues of Cowtown, Cowaramup. Compliments to the sculptors — it seems she can’t tell them from the real thing. Then good coffee and breakfast — it would be unfair to choose between cafes because none has disappointed.

Blissful though it was, I don’t think this one trip gave me enough to publish a paper on my scientific findings, so I’m just going to have to go back down south for more empirical data ... and back, and back ...

Health warning — the stop at the Miami Bakehouse at Pinjarra on the way there and back for a delicious pie or cake and good coffee may not do much for your diet but, boy, it’s a tasty tradition.

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